Graphic images on cigarette packaging here in the United State have garnered both negative and positive feedback regarding their influence on tobacco use. A Finnish website, Tobacco Body, is now using similar techniques to show smokers what the effects of smoking can mean for their physical appearance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking negatively affects every major organ in the human body. Tobacco claims more lives each year than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Around 90 percent of all chronic obstructive lung disease-related deaths are linked to smoking.
We all know tobacco use can lead to various internal health concerns such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and emphysema, but we fail to recognize what it can do to our outside appearance. Created by the Cancer Society of Finland, Tobacco Body features an interactive guide that compares the physical features of a smoker to those of a nonsmoker.
The site offers illustrations that give a visual representation of what long-term smoking can mean for our facial and bodily features including hair, nose, skin, and teeth. For example, women who smoke over a long period of time run the risk of growing hair around their face and arms. Smoking can also cut off blood circulation to the skin and cause elastic skin fibers to snap. The result could include spots, acne, and even skin disease.
One of the site’s most surprising pieces of information involved the kind of effect that smoking can have on both the male and female reproductive system. Men who smoke risk cutting off blood circulation to their genitals, which could lead to a lower sperm count or even erectile dysfunction. It’s no surprise that smoking can damage fetal development; however, Tobacco Body reports that it can also kill a woman’s sex drive.
Tobacco Body and similar government and statewide interventions to curb tobacco use definitely do their job of shocking the public, but do they actually force smokers to quit? According to a recent study published in the journal Tobacco Control, anti-tobacco imagery has little to no effect on young smokers.
“Increasing the size of the warnings, or putting them on the front of the pack, will make no difference,” Simon Clark, director of Forest, a smokers’ group, told the BBC. "If you want to smoke you will smoke… If governments want to reduce youth smoking rates they should crack down on shopkeepers who sell cigarettes to children and tackle illicit trade.”